By Heather Matthews
We all have a unique story of how we landed in the huge parking and mobility industry. My background is in technology, starting as a computer lab monitor in my children’s school to have something to do, to eventually being a database/system administrator. From these roles, I began to learn software programs, how to troubleshoot hardware issues, and how to run databases–all key skills to have in today’s parking industry.
When I started in the parking industry six years ago, the technology was just starting to take off. Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) was not even a thing yet. My office had been with the same vendors for 20+ years. Most of the technology was outdated and the need for newer, more efficient technology was a must. To navigate technology needs and learn what was available, I needed to get the parking industry trade shows.
My first step into a parking industry trade show hall was mind boggling. The sea of booths was overwhelming to say the least. The amount of different software, hardware, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) was staggering. Navigating which technology was best for our offices and operations was challenging. However, with my background in technology, I was able to quickly see who actually had a product that would not only be here in 10 years but who had the infrastructure to mature with the changing needs of 21st century parking operations.
As I made decisions to bring the more efficient, 21st century technologies to my office at a public university, another challenge became obvious. The employees who have to run these technologies on a daily basis needed to have the skills to understand what they are working with. This is somewhat hard to overcome in an office where most people have worked for 25+ years. Having the university acknowledge that IT professionals are extremely valuable employees was also a mounting challenge. Making sure I find the time to train and leverage the people I have is a must.
My advice to parking and mobility professionals is to make sure your new hires are tech savvy and understand how software and hardware work–from customer service, parking officers to parking and mobility operations managers. Don’t rely on just one IT professional to handle your entire department. Technology has permeated all facets of business, education, and our personal lives. Parking is no different. Add in the need for social media management and the necessity is even higher. Your operations suffer without the proper skills needed to run them. We use multiple systems and technologies to run our businesses and operations. Make sure your staff has the skills to handle the jobs!
Heather Matthews is an IT professional with the University of Vermont and also serves on the Board of Directors for the New England Parking Council.